Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. In a Gallup’s latest report, less than one-third of Americans are engaged in their jobs in any given year.
The best managers create productive and engaging work environments for team members. While it’s not breaking news that no two individuals are alike and managing a person or a team is not a simple formula, it’s worth nothing that this process can be full of landmines. You have to play to the strengths of the individual and the team and know how to motivate and get the most out of them. I have listed three areas below to focus on to maximize team management:
One of the biggest things you quickly pick up in a management position is to sit back and listen. Listen to what the members of your team, members of the office, members of the media and clients are saying. Too easily and too often early in our careers it’s easy to want to make our voices heard, even at the expense of others or while not truly listening to what is going on around you. Not every member of your team communicates the same way so it’s important to be able to identify signs and read what they are telling you in both verbal and non-verbal, written communication. The further I’ve advanced in my career, the more I’ve learned that listening grows the ability to piece together the big picture.
Example: “Zach” is always one of the most vibrant and passionate members of your team. His enthusiasm on the team and with clients is often contagious and uplifting. Lately, you’ve noticed Zach’s demeanor change in meetings – he doesn’t speak up as much, seems visibly frustrated and less engaged. While his work has continued to be stellar, his manager “Terry” decides to call an impromptu 1:1 with him to find out what’s going on. Zach divulges he’s had a lot going on inside and outside of work and it’s starting to get to him. Terry offers to help out however she can, decides to reallocate some of the team’s assignments, and implores Zach in the future to come speak with her directly whenever he feels overwhelmed and that keeping an open line of communication is key.
Learning that you can’t manage team members the same way is one of the most important things a manager can do. I think most managers have had that lightbulb moment early on and it’s important to understand that how one employee thinks, works, operates, handles feedback, and gets motivated can be very different from another. I think of it like what is most effective for you when working out? Do you prefer the self-motivated, on your own gym style or the boot camp style with an instructor getting in your face and screaming at you? Tailoring your management style to get the most out of a team member is vital for team success.
Example: “Wendy” is fairly new to the agency and has picked most things up fairly quickly. One area Wendy struggles in is receiving constructive feedback. The recent quarterly client report she put together needed quite a bit of editing and she felt it was a personal attack when her manager called her in to discuss the report. In order to resolve the conflict, her manager, “Alyssa”, decided to chat through where the disconnect was and quickly learned in her previous job that Wendy’s old manager would blame her for a multitude of things that went wrong with a client and offered very little feedback. Alyssa was shocked and assured her that the pointed feedback she gave on the report was not an attack, but simply the way the agency worked so she could see where the errors took place and improve upon the next report.
The chemistry and culture of an office is something that too often gets lost in the shuffle when prioritizing what’s important in a job. I think most of us have been in some sort of work setting that was less than ideal. Cultivating an environment that allows people to speak their mind, feel like they are contributing and just have fun and enjoy what they do each and every day is critical to finding long term success for a team. What motivates one team member, may not motivate another, but ultimately harnessing a sense of collaboration is a good way to get everyone connected and give every team member a sense of community and worth.
Example: “Steve” is a newly hired AC and has been with the agency around three months. His manager has asked him to speak up more in brainstorms, client calls and team meetings in his 90-day review, but Steve can often be timid and shy and feels as though his ideas might be off base. Finally, one Monday, he speaks up in a team meeting about an idea to improve a client’s struggling social program. The team, surprised by his bold suggestion and quick idea, loves it and brings it up to the client on the call later that week. Empowered by his new win and the team’s encouragement to throw out more ideas, Steve goes on to grab staff kudos and ends the week by claiming the trivia happy hour crown to go into the weekend with newfound confidence along with respect and support from his team.
To conclude, good managers grow employee engagement and that makes teams more productive. Getting the most out of your team is a matter of finding out the motivations of different team members and balancing one personality against another by listening, learning and livening up the culture in your workplace.